Overview of TN

The TN (Trade NAFTA) category was developed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens to the United States to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis.  The TN category allows for admission of individuals for the purposes of working for a U.S. employer as a professional or working for a foreign employer (including even a non-Canadian or non-Mexican employer) to provide pre-arranged professional services to a U.S. employer. 

Only occupations specified in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty can serve as the basis for TN employment.  Appendix 1603.D.1 also stipulates the minimum qualifications for entry into the U.S. in each occupation.  A list of requirements for each occupation can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html .

Both Canadian and Mexican citizens can be admitted to the United States in TN status in increments of up to three-years.  Extensions of stay are also granted in up to three-year increments.  There is no cumulative total limit on the time a Canadian or Mexican citizen can be in TN status.  Status can be renewed indefinitely, provided that the stay remains temporary in nature.

There are two basic ways for Canadian and Mexican citizens to process the TN:

  • Apply for the TN Visa in their home country (Canadian citizens do not require a visa and may obtain TN-status at the US Port of Entry) or
  • Have the employer file an I-129 petition sponsoring either a change-of-status to TN or extension-of-status of TN within the United States. 

  • TN-Applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico
  • TN-Applicant must possess the minimum qualifications of a member of one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1
  • Entry must be “temporary”
  • Job must constitute “pre-arranged” professional activity for a U.S. entity, within one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1
  • Employer can be either a U.S. employer for whom the pre-arranged services are being done, or a foreign employer who has arranged for the Canadian or Mexican citizen to provide pre-arranged services in the U.S. for a U.S. entity
  • TN-Applicant cannot be “self-employed” in the U.S.

More information about the TN Visa can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html 


Applying for TN Visa Status Abroad – Applying for TN status abroad (either for a TN Visa at a US Consulate for Citizens of Mexico or for TN-Status at the Port of Entry for Citizens of Canada) is often the fastest possible way to obtain TN Status since no petition must be filed with US Citizenship and Immigration Services in advance.  Mexican Citizens who will apply for a visa at a US Consulate must plan at least 1 month in advance to allow enough time for obtaining an appointment for the visa interview and for visa processing.  Canadian citizens who will apply for TN-status at the port-of-entry should make sure to obtain all supporting documents needed for TN determination at least 2 weeks prior to their intended entry to the US.

Filing I-129 for TN Status within the US –
If Syracuse University will process a change-of-status to TN or an extension of TN-Status within the United States, the Slutzker Center must submit an I-129 Petition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services as early as 6 months before the intended beginning effective date of the TN.  The TN application process is very long and requires much documentation from both the department and applicant.  It is recommended that departments and applicants begin any new TN application, extension, or amendment as close to 6 months in advance of the intended start date as possible.